The artists in smooth jazz whose success endures the longest are those who develop an identifying trademark in their style -- when you hear their song, you know it's them. A veteran of the genre at age 28, keyboardist Brian Culbertson has over the years made his particular imprint a very distinctive interaction with horns. On his latest, Nice & Slow, he's sometimes even the one playing them. On the throbbing, funky "Get It On," his high register piano musings take verses on their own, then blend on the chorus sections with Jim Reid's tenor and a snazzy trumpet and trombone section played by Culbertson; there's also a brief section where his horns do a call and response with the keys. Reid's tenor takes on a Steve Cole like "double tone" flavor on the mid-tempo groover "Without Your Love," which is given a bluesy effect with the Hammond B-3 of Ricky Peterson. Peterson's B-3 simmers coolly behind Culbertson's reflective melody -- which joins on the chorus with Kirk Whalum's lush tenor -- on "I Wanna Know." Culbertson wrote the moody, retro soul-flavored "Just Another Day" with Jeff Lorber, and duets on the chorus with the unmistakable breezy tones of Herb Alpert's trumpet. The soft-spoken "I Could Get Used to This" features Dave Koz's soprano in a more quiet harmonic role. Koz co-wrote one of the most memorable tracks, the ultra-hooky "All About You," but ironically doesn't play a note; thus we get to hear Culbertson adorned only with the balmy acoustic guitar caress of Michael Thompson. Culbertson has also become a happy member of the "soulful vocals are cool" brigade, providing the grooves behind an emotional Sheree & Trey Lorenz on the title track and the ultra-romantic "Someone," featuring Kenny Lattimore.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
feat: Kirk Whalum
feat: Kenny Lattimore